Archive for January, 2015
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us” (Romans 8:31)?
God’s advocacy for our lives is a promise/reality that we embrace by faith. What we claim by faith is then proved out and demonstrated in our actions and attitudes. What God lovingly and graciously has done and is doing in our lives is to be done by us for the benefit of others. Thus, another reading of today’s passage might be, “If God is for us, who can we possibly be against?”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44).
These verses offer a telling difference between the Law and the gospel. The command to hate one’s enemy is a law of both limitation and protection. By limiting hate to the enemy only, it worked to protect the ethnic community of God’s people and all the various relationships within that community. Loving one’s enemy, however, cannot be legislated by law. It is the working of Jesus and the transforming power of his gospel that makes it possible. The Law allows room for hatred while the gospel does not.
“The man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What have you done?’ And the woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate’” (Genesis 3:12-13).
If we are birthed into this world as a blank canvas then every person, every circumstance brushes against our life; making marks and leaving behind strokes of influence that shape the portrait of our lives. The temptation is to blame all such sociological phenomena on who and what we are. Ultimately, however, the day comes when we decide to pick up the brush and add the finishing touches. It is this decision that determines whether we become just another painting in the gallery of humanity or a masterpiece in the landscape of God’s creation.
“Now, therefore, fear the Lord and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14).
Are you worshipping and living in the pursuit of the God of history and creation? Or, is your focus on the god of your own history and creation. It’s a challenge to recognize, acknowledge, and leave behind these false ancestral gods; to cross the river of our continuing faith journey and embrace the true living God…the One not limited by our familiar systems, personal preferences, and political affiliations. Perhaps the best litmus test of which one we serve is to be found in the attitudes we hold toward the working and inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the generations succeeding. Do we belittle the works of their hand? Do we criticize the expressions of their spiritual giftedness? Do we hold up our preferences as being the way things “ought to be.” I pray that I might always remember that the God of history and creation is so much bigger than my history and experience; that he inspired the generations before me and will inspire those after me and, most of all, that I might be one to encourage the coming generation to passionately pursue God; that they might allow him to work dynamically in their lives in the hope that they might be a fresh voice to the generations coming after them.
“I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and cities which you had not built, and you have lived in them; you are eating of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant” (Joshua 24:13).
From Abraham to the present occupation of Canaan, for thirteen verses Joshua has given the Hebrews a summary overview of God’s abiding presence and faithful provision. As the beneficiaries of God’s grace it seems reasonable to expect that their response would be one of loyalty and devotion. Such is the nature of faith; it need not be blind nor unreasonable. Granted, you may never have all the information you would like before making a decision regarding a commitment of faith, but even then it wouldn’t be a decision; it would be a foregone conclusion. Have you decided in regard to the life of faith? Part of the grace of being a chosen people is that it necessitates our being a choosing people. Choose today whom you will serve.
“For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and they will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name” (Joshua 7:9)?
As we also should be, Joshua was concerned about the name of God; his reputation; how those outside the community of faith were interpreting and understanding him. As ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20), we are responsible for translating the gospel and the Spirit of the living Christ into “real time” actions and attitudes. It’s living with the burden that others are making assumptions about God based upon the behavior of his people. Might those who would never enter a sanctuary still be in the presence of the risen Christ when they are in our presence.
“Rise up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, for thus the Lord, the God of Israel, has said, There are thing under the ban in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you have removed the things under the ban from your midst’” (Joshua 7:13).
God’s greater concern isn’t the destruction of his enemies but the consecration of his people; the sanctity of our identity as a covenant people. In a day when the prevailing message of American pulpits seems to be a spewing forth regarding the depravity of the world, it’s time we awaken to the reality that the responsibility of Christian living belongs to the church alone. The world behaves just as those of an unregenerate condition should. Raising our voice against something is a poor substitute for raising our standard and being what we are suppose to be as the church–a consecrated presence.
“But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the Lord burned against the sons of Israel” (Joshua 7:1).
Within the community of faith, our lives, deeds, and even our sins are inextricably woven together in a symbiotic relationship. None of us exist on an island unto ourselves. The sin of the one becomes the failure of the whole. The story of Achan is a reminder that it’s never just one particular sin of one particular person. It is a sin we all share in one form or another.
“Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7).
God’s word sets the course for a life of faith to be lived successfully. It cannot be followed arbitrarily or haphazardly; only carefully. Drift to the left and you will find the authority of scripture being undermined; exchanged for newer and more modern authorities. A turn to the right might find political views trumping biblical views. To stay the course prescribed by God’s word takes strength and great courage.
“As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10).
As a member of the body of Christ, you occupy a special place; a providential place. Because you serve him in a special providential place, you have been given a special providential gift for a special providential purpose. A special person with a special gift in a special place of service. Especially you.